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MUSIC REVIEW: Dirty Hit Tour @ O2 Academy, Oxford

MUSIC REVIEW: Dirty Hit Tour @ O2 Academy, Oxford

30 March 2017 | Miranda Cattermole

Despite being a fairly young, lesser known independent record label, Dirty Hit has far outdone itself with its output. Wolf Alice roared onto the indie rock scene with the release of their debut album ‘My Love is Cool’ in 2015, which hit number 2 in the UK chart. Since then, they have won the NME Best Live Band award, and notably featured on the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack. The 1975 have been the label’s greatest success, breaking into mainstream pop, and releasing two number one albums. With this portfolio in hand, 2017’s Dirty Hit Tour was bound to unearth some serious new talent on the cutting edge of UK music. We went down to the tour’s first stop at the O2 Academy in Oxford and created this handy guide to the line-up.

Pale Waves
From: Manchester
Listen if you like: the 1975, Honeyblood, JAWS.


A moody image, paired with poppy-synth and teenage heartache? Perhaps we’ve seen this before, in Dirty Hit’s very own The 1975 no less (who, in fact, produced Pale Waves’ single ‘There’s a Honey’). The similarity between Pale Waves and their mentors is uncanny: everything from frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie’s vocal affectations, to their ‘wall of sound’ electronic intermissions. That said, their catchy choruses had everyone singing along at the O2. Their lyrics have a distinctly anecdotal feel, telling stories of late nights and wistful encounters. A playful use of a backing track within the set was an interesting departure from typical ‘indie rock’: on top of the live vocals it had an echoing effect, which was particularly eerie. This musical layering made for a resonant performance, although the distinct guitar parts became somewhat lost in the noise.


 
King Nun
From: London
Listen if you like: Slaves, Drenge, Nirvana.


If you like the sound of young men smashing on guitars, very loudly, you’ll like King Nun. They have chosen the path of the 90s grunge Renaissance, in everything from their visual aesthetic, to sound, to live performing style. This is by no means a bad thing, and despite this influence, King Nun achieve much more than mindless shouting. Melodic choruses accompany some seriously impressive guitar work on their tracks ‘Tulip’ and ‘Speakerface’. ‘Hung Around’ in particular was a great performance at the O2: a little self-indulgence worked particularly well with the slow, drawn out beats and wavering androgynous vocals (the music video for this track is particularly entertaining - think, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ meets Day of the Triffids, with a charmingly homemade production). King Nun seem to have adopted a light-hearted, parodying approach, quite a mature sensitivity for a group whose members are still teenagers. As with Pale Waves, youth is intrinsic to King Nun’s angle, and in this case it makes for a wildly arrogant, potentially brilliant, sound.


 
Superfood
From: Birmingham
Listen if you like: Blur, Peace, The Magic Gang.


After having been off the radar for almost two years, Superfood have come back with force. Though some fans might mourn the band’s kitsch, raucous anthems, their new track ‘Double Dutch’ displays a more mature and considered approach. They flirt with hip-hop sampling and effects, underpinned by electronic beats, whilst remaining true to their melodic riffs and vocals. Other new tracks in the set, as yet unreleased, adopt wide ranging musical references including reggae. Somehow, they artfully synthesise these styles into one coherent sound. Seeing them perform new work alongside some old favourites highlighted a departure from their Brit-pop-esque, surreal parodies of modern life which characterised their debut album. The addition of deconstructed, extended versions of this work (for example with the track ‘Right On Satellite’) made for a captivating performance, which was almost melancholic. In this sense they achieved something essential to the spirit of live music: spontaneous, playful artistry, that isn’t just a straight rendition of the recorded track. It seems that taking time out has helped to develop this theatricality and stage presence, as well as advance their technical ability. Musically, frontman Dom Ganderton and lead guitarist Ryan Malcom were flawless.
This showcase of fresh talent, oozing with potential, was expertly topped off by Superfood’s sensational comeback. Prepare your ears: we will be hearing more from these bands, and Dirty Hit almost certainly has more tantalising acts in the making for the next tour.

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